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Thoughts and Experiences from the Mile High City of Denver, Colorado

Officiating in the NBA Biased

Peter

In an earlier post, I discussed Why I Hate the NBA. It mainly came down to how bad the officiating is. Well, there was a study done looking at several years of data and they found a bias in the officiating. In an article published today in the New York Times, Study of N.B.A. Sees Racial Bias in Calling Fouls, they found a racial bias in the officials calls.

In the study, they found that white officials called fouls at a greater rate against black players versus white players. They also found that black officials called fouls at a greater rate against white players versus black players, although not at as big as a rate.

Well the NBA has responded. In an article on ESPN, "NBA: Claims of racial officiating bias 'flat-out wrong', the NBA claims "the study the report was based upon was wrong and contained flawed statistical methodology."

The NBA even did their own study and NBA president of basketball operations Joel Litvin said, "We conducted our own study with experts in mathematics and statistical analysis, and those experts, looking at far superior data that included 148,000 calls, concluded unequivocally that there was no racial bias in officiating."

But the New York Times did their work and even had both peer reviewed. In response to the NBA's claims, Tom Jolly, the New York Times sports editor, had a response in the same ESPN article.

"We are confident that our article fairly and accurately reflects the findings of the Wolfers-Price study, and fairly and accurately reflects the NBA's response to that study. Over the course of three weeks of reporting, Alan Schwarz spent several hours meeting with NBA. executives to discuss the Wolfers-Price study and the league's own subsequent study.

As we reported, all of the data that was made available to us from both studies was reviewed at our request by three independent experts: Ian Ayres of Yale Law School, David Berri of California State University-Bakersfield and Larry Katz of Harvard University. They uniformly agreed that the Wolfers-Price study reflected a solid analytical approach and that the NBA's study was significantly flawed.

In fact, after studying the NBA. data, Katz, one of the nation's most respected economists, told us: "It was so poorly presented that it was hard to figure out what they were doing. And to the extent you could figure out what they were doing, there was such incoherence you couldn't draw any conclusions from it."

It will be interesting to see what comes of this. I know the NBA referees have biases, but this may be too much for them to handle or keep control on.